Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The relationship of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe

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Alfred Stielgitz, a well-known photographer, and GeorgiaO’Keeffe, a painter, met in 1916. Alfred was 5 when he met Georgia at the ripe age of , and to their surprise, was the beginning of a relationship that would last a lifetime.


Paul Strand, 6 years younger than Stieglitz, was well known as Stieglitz “newest protege”. An experienced photographer, Strand “lacked a powerful protective male presence in his early years, so he felt that he could look up to Stieglitz, his father figure. (class notes). Alfred showed an interest in Strand’s photographs and immediately invited him to 15th Avenue. This was the location of the magazine, “Camera Work”. Strand took full advantage of the invitation, and was at the gallery much of his time. Within a year, in June of 1917, Paul Strand’s photographs had appeared in “Camera Work”.


When Strand and O’Keeffe had met, it was less than a week that herself and Stieglitz had become lovers. They had met in 1, and it was obvious at that very moment that there was an attraction between the two of them. Soon after Strand’s photographs had appeared in the June issue of “Camera Work”, the letters between O’Keeffe and Strand had immediately begun.


The letters lasted for a year. The letters consisted of intimate and passionate details of how Strand made her feel. “Seductive, even erotic…she explained a sultry June night on which her skin felt so hot that she couldn’t bear the feel of clothing. She wrote to him naked. Before long, O’Keeffe was filled with feelings of guilt and infidelity. She was living in fear that her lover, Stieglitz would soon find out in time. So, to keep Alfred from learning of O’Keeffe and Strand’s secret affair, she would not send his mail to 1. In one letter, she had asked him if there was another address that she could send his mail to, to prevent Stieglitz and coworkers from finding out.



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O’Keeffe was different than the typical woman. The typical woman wants “security and fidelity”. O’keeffe on the other hand, was not interested in the commitments and responsibilities of a relationship. She notified Strand of this in her letters. She thought of it as “merciless…honesty”, so Strand knew what he was bound for.

Stieglitz had photographed a portrait of Strand and informed O’Keeffe. Her plan was to keep the big secret away from her lover, she requested a copy of the photograph anyway. But, the purpose of this was to advise Strand all of what she was gradually starting to dislike about him. However, that lasted only a short time and she apologized in her next letter.

As time went on, O’Keeffe became uneasy about the secrets she and Strand had shared. But soon enough, Strand had told Stieglitz about their affair. Being young and immature about the situation, Strand felt that Stieglitz’s relationship with O’Keeffe was far from intimate. Stieglitz had no problem with Strand believing this, so he used it as a way to gather information and facts about Strand’s and O’Keeffe’s passionate relationship. Essentially, he proceeded with caution as an ally, to control O’Keeffe's feelings through Strand.  All of a sudden Stieglitz starts to get overly competitive with Strand over their photography. After all, Strand looks up to Stieglitz as a father, but Stieglitz doesn’t really understand this. Most of their relationship was who can take a better picture. For example, Stieglitz had taken a picture of a railroad. It was a very simple, yet interesting picture. But, Strand had perfected it. He had taken the same picture, but instead it was called an aerial photograph. Strand took the picture from the sky. (class notes). This competitiveness molds the relationship between Stieglitz and Strand.

Eventually Strand had settled down, and married a woman named Rebecca. The competitiveness of Stieglitz had shown, and “his race with Strand for the perfect print resulted in Stieglitz’s first professional facilities.” Stieglitz also persuaded Strand to get his hands on any work he could, because of the war, reminding Strand that he wasn’t in the “masters league”.

O’keeffe’s paintings were mostly done in the west. She and Stieglitz had a house on a hill over Lake George, New York. The Stieglitz’s had invited the Strands to visit “the Hill”, but they were unable to make it due to their work.  Beck through her letters to the Strands’, showed that they reminded her of her and her husband.   While Strand had been working in New York, Beck Strand had visited the Stieglitz’s at “the Hill”. She had written a letter to Strand explaining how she and O’Keeffe had gone swimming in a lake nearby naked. She also wrote that she found it enjoyable and that they will go again the following day. That day, Stieglitz had gone as well and was photographing Strand’s wife. Strand was hurt when reading this because the man he trusted with everything, Stieglitz, had seen his wife naked before he had. Strand had not had that experience with Beck before, and “he turned his back on his wife’s need, leaving her to the attentions of Alfred and Georgia.” In the beginning of the fall, Strand had visited “the Hill” and Beck had relocated to the Strand’s house in an extra room. “When Paul arrived, tensions had surfaced.”  The two photographers had photographed her at the same time while she was in bed. When the photographs came back from 1, they were sent to Stieglitz at “the Hill.” He then forwarded them to the Strand’s, which wasn’t much of any help to make their relationship better. Stieglitz obviously did this intentionally.

As time past, Stieglitz had to go back to New York, while O’Keeffe and Beck stayed at “the Hill”. In time, O’Keeffe was up to her old ways again. She met a man, Tony Luhan, and wrote to Stieglitz that she felt a “physical thrill in the Indians presence.”  Stieglitz went mad and lit a fire and burnt everything important to him. O’Keeffe realized that Stieglitz was very upset about this, so she decided that she would go back to New York earlier than expected, but she had changed her mind and blamed it on Beck. Shortly it became certain what was really going on between her and Beck.  O’Keeffe art reflects her personality plenty. She is famous for her flower paintings, which look much like a woman’s genitalia. Obviously, O’Keeffe is a very sexual lady, and the truth about her behavior shows extremely clearly.

Later, the Strand’s were planning for a new gallery. They were to surprise the Steiglitz’s after they returned from a vacation in Maine. Stieglitz wasn’t rather keen, and he insisted that the Strand’s take over the gallery because of his undesired feelings to run a gallery at such an old age.  He later did apologize for the outburst and agreed to be a part of the new gallery. He finally obtained his first darkroom in the city. The gallery was called, “An American Place”.

In February, 1918, an exhibit at the Place showed over a hundred of Steiglitz’s photographs including the nudes of his wife. Alfred had “conceived the exhibit to ridicule the Strand’s, and Strand knew something was not right.”

The break between the Steigltiz’s and the Strand’s 5 year relationship was long overdue. The show was the reason the break had come. Years after, Strand recalled “ The day I walked into the Photo Secession 1 in 1907 was a great moment in my life…but the day I walked out of AN American Place in 1 was not less good. It was fresh air and personal liberation from something that had become, for me at least, second-rate, corrupt, meaningless.”

The relationship between the Steiglitz’s and the Strand’s is a soap opera that almost could not even be imagined today. The lives of these talented people are so interesting with the love triangles and countless infidelities. But the most important thing is the art that was made, and the legends that these talented people became.



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